|3/26/2021 1:21:00 PM|
DIVERS SWEEP STATE
In an amazing display of talent, depth, desire and coaching, Chisago Lakes divers Storm Opdahl, Jimmy Nord and Tobie Stiles swept the top three spots at the Class A state diving meet on Thursday, March 18 at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center at the University of Minnesota.
Heading into the tournament, the coaches knew it was a possibility the boys could take the top three spots. Opdahl is the defending state champion, Nord finished fourth last year and Stiles finished seventh, and only two divers that were ahead of him were underclassmen, and one of them was hurt.
But, for all three to execute their dives flawlessly and actually pull off the feat was an amazing accomplishment for not only the boys, but for the Chisago Lakes swimming and diving program and for the school district itself.
Despite being the Class A meet, which is the small schools of the state, both Opdahl and Nord were head and shoulders above the Class AA state champion diver as well, and Stiles would’ve had a top six finish in the big class, too.
Opdahl, a junior, was dominant again in winning his second straight state title. He had a 40 point lead over Nord in the semifinals, and ended up scoring 462.05, which was almost 30 points clear of his teammate in second place.
His performance, especially early in the meet, was so dominating that even if he stopped after the semi-finals, he would’ve still finished in the top 10.
“Storm will do anything asked of him. There isn’t a new dive that he won’t try or an instruction that he doesn’t listen to,” Diving Coach Bri McClaskie said. “He excels under pressure and has the ability to push himself rather than just being “OK” with winning. It will be really exciting to see what he delivers next year.”
“I definitely felt the pressure this year more than the other,” Opdahl said after the meet. “Getting another title was a goal from the beginning og the season and being able to execute was a great feeling. Winning two state titles for my hometown is something I never even thought was a reality and having it happen is a dream come true. I’m already looking for that third one next year!”
For Nord, he jumped from fourth place last year to second place this year, and improved his score by almost 40 points. The sophomore spent a lot of the off-season with Opdahl on their club team and a ton of time with McClaskie this season on refining the things that were going to give him the little edge. “We worked on a more controlled takeoff, which would then help all of my dives,” Nord said. “During the off-season, I dove at the University of Minnesota pool and worked on a lot of things like pointing toes and cleaner entries while trying to get new dives along the way.”
“The improvement in Jimmy this year has been fun to watch. He has really worked on his mental game and has turned into quite the competitor,” McClaskie added. “He put together the best 11 dive list this year at the State Meet. There are not many people who can perform their best of the season when it matters the most, and that is exactly what he did. He is also one of the kindest kids I know and always has a smile on his face.”
Stiles, whos is the newcomer to diving of the group, continued his rousing ascent on the boards. The junior is only his second year of varsity diving and has already claimed two top seven finishes at the state meet. Stiles has become such a natural because of his high level gymnastics background. “One of the toughest things that I had to adjust to in diving has definitely been entering the water on my head since in gymnastics you want to land on your feet,” he said. “Crossing over from gymnastics to diving, the most fun has been the great group of guys that make up our team and also being able to do something new and exciting.”
“Tobie had a wonderful season and his improvement was incredible. This is the most I have been able to work with him and he soaked up all of the instruction he was given,” McClaskie remarked. “He is a perfectionist and that is apparent in all aspects of his life. He doesn’t want to just do something, he wants to do it right, and that is a huge factor into his success this year. The improvements that Tobie has made are incredible. We spent a lot of time this year fine tuning the basics and I think it really shows.”
McClaskie, who was a diver in high school herself, was just astounded when it came to the results at the state meet. “It is hard to put into words how proud I am of these three. To see them sweep the top three spots at the State Meet was an incredible experience and one that they more than earned. They have shown up everyday this season and given it everything they had. The results speak for themselves,” she gushed. “I am not only proud of them for how they placed, but more so, for who they are and who they are becoming. All three are fantastic kids. They are all doing a wonderful job in the classroom and show some of the best sportsmanship I have ever seen towards everyone they interact with. To say I am proud of them would be an understatement.”
The boys and McClaskie all raved about the environment created at practice. When there is a standard so high at practice where each diver is competing against the best in the state, skills are bound to improve. Iron sharpens iron is the saying.
“I love coming to practice every day. The guys come in, have their workout written up on the board, and we go to work. You would think that having the three of them together would create some animosity or issues, but it is actually quite the opposite,” McClaskie explained. “They are all so encouraging with each other, while still having a healthy competition. They push each other, but genuinely care for each other and want the team to succeed. This year’s accomplishments were successful because we are a team and that is how we approach practice. We are in this together and we are all improving together. Every day I am looking for personal improvement for each of them and that is what they deliver.”
“I am always being pushed by my teammates at diving, especially Jimmy since we both started in the same year and dive club together. We’re all always puhsing each other and striving to be better,” Opdahl said.
“We have a good balance between having fun and being serious and locked in,” Stiles said. “With having two of the top divers in the state on my team, it gives me a really good opportunity to watch and learn from their techniques and apply them to my dives.”
“It’s been really beneficial having two other amazing teammates to help push me in a way of friendly competition,” Nord said. “Storm, Tobie and I really worked on being focused on one dive at a time throughout the season this year. Coach really makes pracitce super enjoyable and it’s really awesome seeing Storm and Tobie learn new dives and improve.”
The best news for the Wildcats and bad news for the rest of the competitors is that Stiles and Opdahl are juniors and Nord is a sophomore, so all three will be back next year. Chisago Lakes has always had a very strong diving program, but these three are taking it to another level. “We haven’t spent much time looking at or comparing ourselves to other schools whether in Class A or AA. Where we focus is continual improvement and beating ourselves,” McClaskie said. “But I can tell you that our diving program has a tremendous amount of support and that shows. I have a huge amount of respect for Head Coach Ellen Heath and what she does for our swimming and diving program at Chisago Lakes. She continually goes above and beyond for our program and our athletes. I have never seen a better advocate for the sport or its athletes. Chisago Lakes diving has a long history of being strong and the common denominator in that is Coach Ellen. To have that amount of support for diving is really incredible and we are grateful for it. We also have a great group of parents who support us and their children. That support goes far and is also greatly appreciated.”